All Relationships Benefit from a Good Apology
One of the more unfortunate romantic movie quotes is from the 1970 film (and novel of the same name) "Love Story." You probably already know the quote - "Love means never having to say you're sorry."
Rather than try to convince anyone why I believe this statement is wrong and harmful, I would rather challenge you to learn a little bit about apologies and then run an experiment.
Not all apologies are created equal. We are talking about genuine, heartfelt amends that are in the "apology language" of the other person. Here's a link to my 2-page summary of the book The Five Languages of Apology. The languages are:
1. Expressing Regret - "I am sorry"
2. Accepting Responsibility - "I was wrong."
3. Making Restitution - "What can I do to make it right?"
4. Genuinely Repenting - "I'll try not to do that again."
5. Requesting Forgiveness - "Will you please forgive me?"
Once you learn what the other person needs you to say or do, just try it a few times and decide for yourself whether you notice any change or improvement in the relationship. This applies to ALL people and ALL interactions - partner, boss, employee, co-worker, friend, parent, sibling, child and stranger. And notice what types of apologies resonate for you.
Forgiveness - The Other Side of an Apology
Forgiveness is a huge concept that is viewed from many perspectives and creates its own controversies. An excellent book on this topic is the classic by Janis Abrahms Spring called How Can I Forgive You? The Courage to Forgive, The Freedom Not To.
When we hold ourselves accountable for our mistakes - and on the other side of the equation, are able to forgive another when appropriate - something even deeper happens. We escape from the perpetrator-victim cycle that is so damaging to our own sense of being and to the humanity of others. By entering the apology-forgiveness cycle we work toward repairing the ruptures that happen in all relationships.
And finally, yet another benefit is what we teach the children in our lives about responsibility and empathy simply by modeling those attributes when we apologize and forgive. Pay attention the next time you apologize to or forgive a child and you'll see what I'm talking about. Kids get it.
Wouldn't a better catch phrase be "Love means being willing to say I'm sorry and I forgive you"?
[For a slightly longer summary of the book The Five Languages of Apology just drop me an email and I'd be happy to send it along.]